Weather seems to be the only thing that can consistently stop the Hartford Yard Goats. Despite having their nine-game winning streak ended on Monday, Hartford continues to lead all of minor league baseball with a record of 18-5. Prior to that loss it had been 13 days since the Yard Goats last lost a game, thanks to two games getting postponed due to weather.
Before the season began there was concern that their 53-game road trip to start the season might make it difficult for the Yard Goats to compete night in and night out. Not quite halfway through the odyssey, the #RoadGoats have thoroughly answered such concerns. Led by some stellar pitching (as a staff, Hartford's 1.78 ERA leads the Eastern League) and a superstar led offense, the Yard Goats are playing the most exciting baseball in all the minor leagues.
News and Notes, April 26 - May 10
|April 26||v||Harrisburg||W 2-1||May 3||@||Harrisburg||4:30 pm|
|April 27||v||Harrisburg||W 4-1||May 4||@||Harrisburg||8:30 am|
|April 28||v||Harrisburg||PPD||May 5||@||Harrisburg||4:30 pm|
|April 29||@||Richmond||W 4-3||May 6||v||New Hampshire||4:35 pm|
|April 30||@||Richmond||W 5-1||May 7||v||New Hampshire||11:35 am|
|May 1||@||Richmond||PPD||May 8||v||New Hampshire||11:35 am|
|May 2||@||Harrisburg||L 4-5||May 9||@||Bowie||4:35 pm|
The activation of catcher Nick Hundley last week created a domino effect of catcher reassignments across the Rockies affiliates. The Rockies sent Dustin Garneau down to Triple-A Albuquerque, which sent Jackson Williams from AAABQ to Hartford, and Troy Stein was sent back down to Modesto.
Yard Goats pitching continues to astound everyone, led by a trio of PuRPs (and a likely future PuRP).
It's hard to decide who has been the most impressive among the rotation. Kyle Freeland (no. 8 PuRP) is currently on a 17 inning scoreless streak and last allowed an earned run on April 12, going at least six innings each time (more below).
Harrison Musgrave, no.23 PuRP and noted courter of Anna Kendrick (#GetAKtotheYGs), has just three walks so far this season, owns an ERA of just 0.87, a 0.53 WHIP, and nearly threw a perfect game in his last outing. The .132 BABIP and 0.00 HR/9 is likely to regress a bit, but his strikeout rate is also just 4.35. Last year in 147.1 innings split between Modesto and New Britain his K/9 was 8.31 K/9, so he could get better, even as more hits are sure to start falling in.
Lost in the shuffle are Zach Jemiola (no. 32 PuRP) and German Marquez. Jemiola doesn't have the shutout streak some of his rotation mates have, but he's no slouch with a 1.04 ERA. His 3.03 K/9 isn't terribly flashy, but he's been able to limit the hits. The only member of the rotation without an absurdly low strikeout rate to match his extremely low ERA is German Marquez. Owner of a 1.71 ERA in 21 innings, Marquez has allowed just 5 walks while generating 18 strikeouts, which leads the team.
What's more, the rotation has done all of this without one of their most exciting members. Antonio Senzatela (no. 9 PuRP) remains on the Eastern League disabled list with no update on his injury status. Senzatela last appeared in a game on April 17 in Portland (Maine) and left due to injury tightness.
David Dahl (no. 2 PuRP) continues to prove to observers near and far he was worthy of that first round draft pick back in 2012. He leads the Eastern League in runs (21), extra-base hits (14), total bases (53), and is second in slugging percentage (.639) and OPS (1.020). He also hit his league leading eighth home run of the year on Saturday.
The rest of the offense has struggled for the Yard Goats. Top prospects Ryan McMahon (no. 5 PuRP) and Raimel Tapia (no. 6 PuRP) are flirting with the Mendoza Line with a .545 and .599 OPS, respectively. McMahon continues to lead the team in strikeouts (28 in 73 at bats) and seems to be showing signs of pressing. Tapia is walking at an acceptable pace but is still struggling with a .216 BABIP. The fact that the Yard Goats own the best record in the minor league without the contributions of two of the teams most talented hitters should instill fear in pitchers across the Eastern League.
Centerfielder Rosell Herrera had a great week, going 8-for-15 in five games played last week with two extra base hits and four RBI. He's recovered from a .188/.297/.219 start to hitting .264/.354/.361 in 72 at bats this season.
Catchers Jackson Williams and Ashley Graeter are the only other players contributing regularly to the offense, though Williams speant nearly two weeks up with the Isotopes. Shortstop Pat Valaika has fallen off the radar and is now slashing just .256/.286/.400 in a team-leading 90 at bats.
Spotlight On: Starting Pitcher, Kyle Freeland
Kyle Freeland was the Rockies' first round pick in the 2014 amateur draft. A product of Jefferson High School, the Denver-native struggled with injuries last year, limiting him to just 72 innings pitched. Now healthy, Freeland has been dominant in his first tour through the Eastern League, and he has made his living pounding the zone.
"When you can fill up the zone and get ahead in counts on hitters, it's always a good thing and it makes easier work for me," Freeland told Alex Kraft of MiLB.com. It has worked to his advantage, maintaining a 0.87 ERA and an opponents batting average of just .211 in his five starts.
Freeland has drawn a lot of attention with his fastball/slider combination, even if he isn't missing bats very often. In 30.1 innings of work he's managed just 17 strikeouts, a rate of just 4.94 K/9. While this may be cause for concern going forward--or at least reason to temper expectations of a midseason promotion to Albuquerque--Freeland has plenty of time to work on this.
"When I step back and kind of look at the season so far, I've surprised myself in some situations," again to Alex Kraft. "I believe my preparation leading into this season and the work I put in this offseason has really paid off, and I've been able to see that."
Dunkin Donuts Park Update
Countdown to Opening Day: 28 Days (?)
Construction is a tough industry, especially in places where weather frequently causes delays. The new Yard Goats stadium has incurred massive delays thanks in large part to the unpredictable northeast winter. Last week the Hartford Courant laid out the milestones, deadlines and penalties as builders race against the clock to have the stadium ready in time for the May 31 home opener.
DoNo Hartford LLC and Centerplan Cos, the builders in charge of the Dunkin Donuts Park project and surrounding development, have their sights firmly fixed on having the stadium ready by May 17. Weather delays led to the sod for the field being installed much later than intended, which set other tasks behind schedule. If they do not make the May 17 deadline, negotiated back in January with the Yard Goats and the City of Hartford, the builders face tens of thousands of dollars in damages. As well as the Yard Goats have performed on the road, I'm sure everyone would rather the stadium be ready for them soon.
Looking Ahead, Helpful Links, and Twitter
German Marquez, Harrison Musgrave, and Kyle Freeland are lined up to pitch in the rest of the series against the Harrisburg Senators this week. Rain spoiled a match up between MLB.com no.1 prospect Lucas Giolito and Freeland last week, but it is possible we could see Giolito-Freeland as the starting pitchers on Wednesday. Set your alarms, though: this game will start at 8:30 in the morning in Denver.
For more Yard Goats news, links, coverage and Twitter, check out the links below. If you have any questions or requests of what you'd like to see in this column, drop me a line in the comments, on Twitter (@playerTBNL), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). #EatItUp
Hartford Yard Goats